CNN Europe CNN Asia
On CNN TV Transcripts Headline News CNN International About Preferences
powered by Yahoo!
Return to Transcripts main page


Calls for National Gun Fingerprinting Intensify; North Korea Admits to Secret Nuclear Weapons Program; Congress Ends Working Session

Aired October 19, 2002 - 19:00   ET


ANNOUNCER: Live from Washington, THE CAPITAL GANG.

I'm Mark Shields, with Al Hunt, Robert Novak, and Kate O'Beirne.

Our guest is Senator Byron Dorgan of North Dakota, the co- chairman of the Senate Democratic Policy Committee.

It's good to have you back, Byron.


SHIELDS: Thank you.

The death of the ninth victim of the unknown sniper around the Washington Beltway intensified calls for national gun fingerprinting.


SEN. CHARLES SCHUMER (D), NEW YORK: If it's a bullet used in a crime, why shouldn't we have that fingerprint? And so I would hope that the president would show real leadership. And given what's happened here, in Maryland and Virginia, and say this is something we can work out.

ARI FLEISCHER, WHITE HOUSE PRESS SECRETARY: There are experts who have questions that have been raised about its accuracy and reliability in the case of the sniper. The real issue is values, and that's what is at stake here.


SHIELDS: The skeptical tone by President Bush's spokesman evoked Democratic criticism.


SEN. TOM DASCHLE (D-SD), MAJORITY LEADER: The special interests once again seem to have the upper hand.

I would hope we wouldn't listen to the special interests. I hope we would hope -- I would hope that we could listen to the law enforcement community...


SHIELDS: Kate O'Beirne, is the National Rifle Association calling the tune on fighting the Beltway sniper?

KATE O'BEIRNE, NATIONAL REVIEW: Mark, that is utterly ridiculous.

SHIELDS: Really?

O'BEIRNE: Leave it to Chuck Schumer and Tom Daschle to use this evil murderer, who's picking off people going to school, shopping, pumping gas, to score political points against George Bush.

And right here in Maryland, the lieutenant governor, Kathleen Townsend, who's in a surprisingly tight race, is doing the same thing, using the sniper to score points against her religious -- her Republican opponent. Her timing's bad, though, it's so obvious that she's using this incident politically, and I think she's courting a backlash.

And this week we found out that in Maryland, under Lieutenant Governor Townsend, has for months refused to provide criminal background checks to the FBI before they sell guns. So she's a classic person who will not enforce the laws on the books and keeps looking for more and more gun control.


AL HUNT, WALL STREET JOURNAL: Look, the idea this would be some kind of a panacea is nonsense. But it'll help a little bit. The people who really know, the people who are not in hock to the NRA, police chiefs, cops, law enforcement officials, all say, Try it. It'll work, it'll help a little bit, we think.

And the logic to my dear friend Kate O'Beirne, who usually is such a formidable adversary, the logic that somehow when a guy's running around shooting people with guns, you have to take that issue off the table. Kathleen Kennedy Townsend has been talking about that issue not only this year but every year. Her father was killed by a gun. She has every right to talk about it. And I see -- I think she's doing it in a perfectly fair way.

SHIELDS: Bob Novak?

ROBERT NOVAK, CHICAGO SUN-TIMES: They had agreed, Al, to take that off the table, and she -- the polls looked bad, and she made this desperate...


NOVAK: ... this desperate attempt. Now, the fact of, the fact of the matter is, we had on on "NOVAK, HUNT & SHIELDS" John Dingell, the senior member of the Democratic -- senior member of the House of Representatives, who believes in Second Amendment rights, as I do, and he said he didn't think this would work. He said, Take a look at it.

But he didn't think it would work. It didn't work in Maryland. But what John Dingell, who's a pretty good politician, just survived a vicious attack on trying to force him out of Congress after all these years by the left wing, what he did say is that this gun issue is a bad issue for the Democratic Party. It's why the House of Representatives is now Republican controlled. And Mr. Daschle ought to stay away from it.

SHIELDS: Let me dissent as vigorously as I can from my good colleagues Kate and Bob on the sense of taking of issue off the table. We criticize politicians because they don't talk about what's on people's minds, and what people are talking about. Now they're not supposed to talk about it at all.

I think Bob Ehrlich's record on gun control is certainly a legitimate concern for the voters of...

O'BEIRNE: It has nothing to do with the sniper.

SHIELDS: ... voters of Maryland.

O'BEIRNE: Unless she's going to say all long-range rifles ought to be outlawed, it has nothing to do with the sniper...

SHIELDS: Unless...

O'BEIRNE: ... and that's why she's using it so opportunistically.

SHIELDS: ... unless, unless in fact we find out that this was a violation of, of, of request, (UNINTELLIGIBLE).

DORGAN: (UNINTELLIGIBLE) the last (ph) news item of the week is that...


DORGAN: ... President Bush indicated he was taking a hard look at this...

SHIELDS: Yes, he did.

DORGAN: ... he called ATF down to the White House and said, OK...


DORGAN: ... we'll take a look at this.

But, you know, we have 250 million guns in this country. If there's something we can do that deals with ballistics technology, that helps, that's fine. But in the end, this is about a madman out here murdering people, and, you know, ultimately he's got a major American city gripped in terror. And this is all about law enforcement as well. SHIELDS: You're absolutely right. And I like the NRA position, guns don't kill people, cigarettes kill do. I mean, we're -- do you ever see the White House cut anybody loose like they cut Ari Fleischer loose this week? I mean, he came out and said, It's values, and then (UNINTELLIGIBLE) Byron great (ph).

NOVAK: Let's, let's, let's, let's, let's be -- gee, let's be realistic. Chuck Schumer is a fanatic on gun control. He, he is antigun. He doesn't like people to have guns. And he uses...

DORGAN: Well, that's...

NOVAK: ... any, any issue...

DORGAN: ... but let me ask...

NOVAK: ... whether, whether it's the Columbine shooting or this, to attack guns.

DORGAN: But let me, let me ask you this. If by Tuesday of next week the president embraces Chuck Schumer's position, and he's now taking a look at that, will he be a fanatic?

NOVAK: Well, I don't think you listened to Ari Fleischer very carefully.

O'BEIRNE: The position is to study this. And there's been a bill pending in the House sponsored by a Republican for some time, although California did do a study, and it's inaccurate to (UNINTELLIGIBLE) -- (UNINTELLIGIBLE) -- call this fingerprinting. Fingerprints don't change, casings of a gun do all the time. So there's a very slim chance this would work. And as you pointed out, we have over 200 million guns...

HUNT: The idea...

O'BEIRNE: ... it wouldn't be tested.

HUNT: ... the idea of studying is just, is an NRA idea. Fortunately, Bob Novak only believes in the Second Amendment for political reasons, he doesn't own guns, thank God. You're a lot better, we'd be a lot better, you know, a lot worse off if he did.

But this White House isn't going to change on this, because they are a wholly owned subsidiary of the National Rifle Association.


HUNT: And the money and everything (UNINTELLIGIBLE)...

NOVAK: ... I, I, I love your, I love your logic. Because you're for abortion rights, you like to have abortions? Is that...

HUNT: Absolutely...

NOVAK: ... that's the same kind of logic... HUNT: No, absolutely...

NOVAK: ... you said, I don't, I don't own guns, so I can't be for the Second Amendment.

HUNT: You don't understand, I'll explain it to you after the show, Bob, you clearly missed the point.


HUNT: You missed the point totally.

SHIELDS: Last word, Bob and Al.

Byron Dorgan and THE GANG will be back with another axis of evil nation heard from.


SHIELDS: Welcome back.

North Korea's communist regime admitted that it has a secret nuclear arms program.


DONALD RUMSFELD, SECRETARY OF DEFENSE: They were told that we had that evidence. They denied it. The next morning they came back and confessed it.

JAMES KELLY, ASSISTANT SECRETARY OF STATE: We are watching very closely to see if North Korea takes the action we and the rest of the international community are demanding, to immediately and visibly end its nuclear weapons program and to abide by its international commitments.


SHIELDS: Last weekend, a terrorist bombing on the island of Bali in Indonesia killed nearly 200 people.


GEORGE W. BUSH, PRESIDENT OF THE UNITED STATES: I think that the free world is -- must recognize that no one is safe. I think we have to assume it's al Qaeda...

GEORGE TENET, DIRECTOR, CIA: It is serious. They have reconstituted, they're coming after us. They want to execute attacks, there's...


SHIELDS: Bob Novak, what do these events of the last week say about our war against terrorism? NOVAK: I think they say it's skewed. Senator Graham, the chairman of the Senate Intelligence Committee, who I admire greatly, has voted against the Iraq resolution because he said we were -- that we're taking away emphasis from things we should put emphasis on.

Now, everybody has known that North Korea has nuclear weapons, but they're much farther advanced than Iraq. We're not saying we're going to go to action and, and, and bomb Iraq, we're not going to the U.N. on that. But much more...

SHIELDS: North Korea.

NOVAK: I mean, going, going to Korea and make an action against North Korea, as we have on Iraq.

But much more worrisome is the Indonesian situation, which shows that al Qaeda is alive and well, CIA director Tenet indicated that. And that is where the emphasis ought to be, on fighting al Qaeda. Al Qaeda has no connection that has been proven or even really alleged with Iraq.

SHIELDS: Byron Dorgan, let me ask you this. We have North Korea with a very large and capable conventional army and nuclear weapons. We have Iraq, without a large conventional army that's supposedly capable, according to our intelligence, and the possibility of nuclear weapons.

Why is the president going to war against the latter and playing diplomacy with the first?

DORGAN: Well, it's a question better asked of the White House. There's very little consistency in foreign policy here. I think the George Tenet statement that you showed a moment ago saying, we're in as much danger now as we were prior to September 11, that there's a heightened state of alert, that we -- we're going to be hit, they're going to try to hit us -- I think we have every right to ask the question, What about this war on terror? Where is Osama bin Laden? Where's Omar? What about the war on terrorism?

I think the American people have a right to ask tough questions about how this war is going.

SHIELDS: Kate O'Beirne.

O'BEIRNE: People seem to want to ignore other things that George Tenet says. Most recently, in his most recent report, he said that there are strong ties, Bob, between Iraq and al Qaeda. He didn't say September 11, he just said longstanding ties between al Qaeda and Iraq.

I think what we learned in North Korea -- about North Korea most recently has a lot of lessons with respect to Iraq, and I'll answer your question. Iraq is doable. It's more dangerous now to have a military action forcing regime change than it would have been five years ago, but it's certainly a whole lot dangerous than if they become a nuclear power and can hold nuclear blackmail throughout the Middle East and indeed the world, which is something we now have to contemplate with respect to North Korea.

That's why Iraq. It's doable.

SHIELDS: And we have to admit, quite frankly, that there's no way the United States could fight a war in both places as of now.

HUNT: Impossible.

SHIELDS: Yes, impossible.

HUNT: Well, yes, it would certainly be impossible. I happen to think that Iraq is the more active and aggressive threat than North Korea right now. But the problem that this -- what -- that this administration has is that every reason they've given for going after Iraq -- it's a bad regime, they have weapons of mass destruction, they export terrorism -- is even more true of Pyongyang.

And the reason we're not going to go there, not only can't you do two wars at same time, but anybody who's been to the DMZ knows it's closer to Seoul than Baltimore is to Washington or Anaheim is to Los Angeles, and you're going to lose hundreds of thousands of people.

I think the most interesting question is, why did the North Koreans do this? They're crazy. So who knows why? Nobody can answer that.

My guess is, because they wanted to force the Clinton administration -- excuse me, the Bush administration to engage the way the Clinton administration was, and they're going to have to do that.

SHIELDS: Let me ask one question, and that is, our one indispensable ally in the war against terrorism has been Pakistan. And we find out that Pakistan has been a supplier to North Korea. I mean, does that put the -- that relationship under -- under cloud?

NOVAK: That's very difficult. I -- the more I look at this, I am convinced that my suspicion is correct -- I don't think we can prove it -- that the attack on Iraq and the plan for it is part of an attempt to alter the balance of power in the Middle East in Israel's favor and because of oil provision, oil arrangements, so we could put pressure on Saudi Arabia when -- where conservatives and Israel have already -- have, have arranged, have, have, have levied an anti-Saudi campaign for a year now.

DORGAN: Can I make a broader point about this issue of nuclear weapons? This administration is concerned that Iraq might get them, North Korea might have them. We have 30,000 nuclear weapons in this world. This administration, in my judgment, has a responsibility to provide some leadership on the broader issue.

You know, they appointed John Bolton, who doesn't believe in arms control. They're opposed to the nuclear test ban treaty...

O'BEIRNE: No, but this is not been...

DORGAN: ... I mean... O'BEIRNE: ... this has not been a great week for the value of arms control treaties. What we learned about North Korea was how the Clinton administration handled them, which is why they may have now made this admission.

When they threatened in the mid-'80s, mid-'90s, to continue developing their nuclear weapons, the Clinton administration bribed them and appeased them. They might be looking for more cash from us to knock it off. And I think we've learned the futility of relying on arms control treaties, given that North Korea...


O'BEIRNE: ... is such a (UNINTELLIGIBLE) brutal regimes will never abide by their terms.

DORGAN: Well, arms control, take a look at...

O'BEIRNE: That was a Clinton (UNINTELLIGIBLE).

DORGAN: ... the result of arms control treaties with the Soviet Union, the reduction in warheads, reduction in delivery vehicles...

O'BEIRNE: Not North Korea.

HUNT: Kate, you would blame the bubonic plague on the Clinton administration...

O'BEIRNE: Oh, now, this, this is clearly a mess...

HUNT: I mean, listen, we are better off...

O'BEIRNE: ... a mess they left on, on-

HUNT: ... we are better off because of that...

O'BEIRNE: ... Clinton's doorstep...

HUNT: ... this administration...


HUNT: ... will engage in that exact policy, engagement with the North Koreans. It will happen at least...

O'BEIRNE: Treaties?

HUNT: ... just as they're engaged in nation building. And you know something, Kate, just took them a long time to get there.

SHIELDS: Kate, I'd just say one thing. The right wing has been dying to prove this, that North Korea wasn't to be trusted. They were up to this. And now the White House says, Shh, shh, shh, don't say anything...

NOVAK: Can I say one word? SHIELDS: ... about it, because of Iraq, that's why.

NOVAK: Can I say one word?


NOVAK: Deterrence. That's the way you deal. You don't do it with arms control treaties...

SHIELDS: You said one word.

NOVAK: ... you don't do it -- Yes, well, the word we should use is deterrence.

SHIELDS: Oh, the word is deterrence, the word is deterrence. The magic duck comes down (ph).

Next on CAPITAL GANG, Congress plays politics. Groucho.


SHIELDS: Welcome back.

Congress quietly ended working sessions until after the election, with its leaders issuing partisan pronouncements on why the Senate has not passed the homeland security issue.


REP. RICHARD ARMEY (R), MAJORITY LEADER: You have one reason, one reason alone, that this nation has not met its obligation to reorganize and meet this threat. Senator Daschle puts the next election ahead of next year's security.

DASCHLE: They're filibustering this bill because they want to use this issue against Democrats in the next two weeks' elections. They would rather use this as an issue...


SHIELDS: Both sides intensified the economic debate.


REP. DICK GEPHARDT (D-MO), MINORITY LEADER: In the vacuum of Republican inaction on the economy, Democrats must lead.

I believe the nation would benefit from immediate, targeted assistance, $125 billion stimulus in vital areas.

BUSH: We need to make sure, for the sake of economic vitality, for the sake of job creation, that you elected you a United States senator who makes sure the tax relief plan is permanent.


SHIELDS: Al Hunt, how do these arguments influence the midterm elections?

HUNT: Mark, your friend Dick Armey actually went further and said the reason al Qaeda's so effective is because they don't have a Tom Daschle. I guess that we should expect that of a man who can make up a story about a retarded janitor.

But I think it's mainly inside-the-Beltway stuff. This is the most closely contested election in my adult life, Mark. By my count, still in play, there are up to a dozen Senate seats, about equally divided, and about 42, 43 House seats, of which the Democrats have to win about two-thirds to have any chance, an uphill task.

I think both parties, though, have a different challenge. The Republican base is fine. They're happy with Bush, and they -- I think they have some problems on some of these domestic issues and the economy, I think, with the swing voters.

The Democrats, on the other hand, do better on these issues with those marginal voters, but their base is not energized. And that may determine the next two weeks.

I still think there's a slight bit more upside for the Democrats because I think they probably have a better get-out-the-vote than the Republicans do. But I wouldn't bet much money on it.

SHIELDS: You know, on Al's point, that Iowa thing is almost put away now because of the get-out-the-vote. The early voting has really changed an awful lot of this, Bob.

NOVAK: I don't think these kind of arguments are going to affect the -- for the election. I don't think that people are going to vote on who killed the homeland security bill. I don't think people are sitting around in the kitchen saying, Boy, if they'd only get this department of homeland security passed, we'd really be safe.

What I'm amused as is Dick Gephardt, who got a lot of heat from the left wing of his party for supporting the resolution on Iraq now comes out with a New Deal economic program, spend and spend, and you spend the country into prosperity. It failed with Roosevelt, it always fails.

What we, what we need is a different kind of tax system, and this economy would take off. If President Bush would come out for a capital gains tax and for a, for, for a, a permanent tax cuts in the upper brackets, we would have an economic boom that would...

SHIELDS: You know...

NOVAK: ... that would take your breath away.

SHIELDS: ... Bob, I haven't heard...


SHIELDS: ... I haven't heard anybody talking -- many people talking about homeland security. I've heard fewer people talking about the urgent need...

NOVAK: People I know...

SHIELDS: ... for a capital gains.

NOVAK: ... people I know all want a capital gains...


SHIELDS: ... the right people, the right people.

Now, the Republican National Committee sent out a memo this week to campaigns, reporting that GOP polling shows the economy is the top issue for voters. Is that was Dick Gephardt was respond to?

DORGAN: Well, it is a tough issue. I mean, no one has much wanted to talk about it in the administration. Their team of advisers, O'Neill and others, are just gone for some weeks now. Nobody wants to talk about it.

But the American people understand it's the issue. They take a look at their 401(K) and they see that a third to a half of the value of the retirement savings is gone, the stock market's like a Yo-Yo, more people out of work. It is the issue. I mean, it clearly is the issue.

And, you know, this administration just doesn't want to talk about the economy at all. It's all Iraq, all the time. And I suppose now it'll be all North Korea, all the time. But we have to deal with this economy.

O'BEIRNE: Yes, I don't, I don't disagree that the economy is of course an issue of importance to voters. I just don't think it's much going to help the Democrats, because they don't have much to say about it. Their attitudes, their position agenda seems to be, somebody really ought to do something about the economy. At least Dick Gephardt came up with spending hundreds of billions of dollars in deficit spending. At least he has a plan.

I think if you look at the politicians, how they're campaigning, I think you can see who they think has the upper hand. I am struck by how many candidates for the Senate are running as Bush Democrats rather than Daschle Democrats. George Bush is all over the campaign ads of Democrats in Georgia and Louisiana and Missouri and Montana. They are running away from the Tom Daschle agenda here in Washington. They're running with George Bush.

NOVAK: I am very loathe to criticize our distinguished guest on this program, but Byron, I got to tell you, President Bush on every speech he gives, and he gives a lot of speeches during the week, talks about the economy. He spends about a third or to half of his speech talking about the economy. That's the fact. And it's, you know, the Demo -- his Democratic spenders say he never talks about it, but he does talk about it.

DORGAN: All he, all he talks about is more -- he talks about giving more tax cuts at a time when he's...

NOVAK: Yes...

DORGAN: ... turned big surpluses into big budget deficits.

NOVAK: Well, he should give more tax cuts.

HUNT: (UNINTELLIGIBLE) more tax cuts to the rich, which, of course, is -- unlike the New Deal, has not worked...


HUNT: Of course the New Deal worked. Kate, one thing I would tell you, though, is, in places I've been, I see Republicans running ads saying, I'm for prescription drugs, I'm against any Social Security privatization.


HUNT: I want to get the economy going. So...

O'BEIRNE: ... blocking the agenda of a popular president is not being defended by his Senate colleagues on the campaign trail.

DORGAN: You mean the agenda of privatizing Social Security? We did block that.

O'BEIRNE: Oh, homeland security. (UNINTELLIGIBLE)...

DORGAN: About privatizing Social Security is what the president...

O'BEIRNE: ... I disagree with you about homeland security...


O'BEIRNE: ... that's going to be in a lot of Republican ads.

NOVAK: You don't, you don't, you don't...

O'BEIRNE: The homeland security department.

NOVAK: ... think that Byron's buddy, Senator Johnson from South Dakota and Governor Shaheen of North -- of, of...

SHIELDS: New Hampshire.

NOVAK: ... New Hampshire are not campaigning as Bush Democrats? They say no crawling back to the tax cuts, we're all for going to war in Iraq?

HUNT: And John Thune and John Sununu say, We're not for privatizing Social Security. We're not for that Bush plan...


HUNT: ... and we're for prescription drugs for seniors.


NOVAK: ... we agree with each other, don't we, Al?


DORGAN: Let's not let that program man have any -- Kate suggests that Democrats have blocked homeland security. We had five cloture votes in the Senate. The Republicans on five occasions from having a vote on the bill. They're the ones that filibustered it, five straight cloture votes.


O'BEIRNE: ... the public doesn't understand Senate procedure...


O'BEIRNE: ... they do understand...

DORGAN: Well, they understand the facts, and those are the facts.

O'BEIRNE: ... that you've got the Democrats are defending union jobs rather than homeland security.


SHIELDS: ... firefighters and cops, let's just get one thing straight. If I were a Republican, I wouldn't want to talk about the worst economy and stewardship in the past half-century either. You can't blame them.


SHIELDS: I'd want to talk about capital gains tax.

NOVAK: ... (UNINTELLIGIBLE) Republicans...

SHIELDS: We'll be back with our CAPITAL Classic, a debate on gun control six and a half years ago.


SHIELDS: Welcome back.

Early in the presidential year of 1996, the Republican-controlled House suddenly scheduled a bill to repeal the 1994 ban on assault weapons. However, the Senate Republicans refused to bring up the bill.

Your CAPITAL GANG discussed these developments on March 23, 1996. Our guest was Daniel Patrick Moynihan, then Democratic senator from New York.

(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP, March 23, 1996)

O'BEIRNE: This is a very important issue at the grass roots level. So what does Al Gore do? He demonizes the NRA. Who's the NRA? Millions of people voluntarily join, unlike unions, where you have to join as a condition of employment...

SEN. DANIEL PATRICK MOYNIHAN (D), NEW YORK: When are we going to learn that the way to deal with gun violence is through cutting off the supply of ammunition?

MARGARET CARLSON, CAPITAL GANG: What this vote does, since 70 percent of the people support the assault weapon ban, and every police organization is, it broadcasts every sensible, reliable...

O'BEIRNE: Not the rank and file.

CARLSON: ... one -- it broadcasts to the public that the congressional Republicans are owned by a tiny minority of the NRA.

HUNT: The NRA, the people who head it, are a bunch of thugs, as opposed to the membership.


HUNT: They oppose banning cop-killer bullets...


NOVAK: You know what else is barred? Murder. That is illegal in every state of the Union.


NOVAK: Every single state, murder is barred.



SHIELDS: Al Hunt, have the gun issue and the NRA turned out to be less of a political liability for Republicans than seemed the case in 1996?

HUNT: Yes, I guess, but Pat Moynihan was right then, he's right today. I don't know, is Bob for or against murder being illegal?

NOVAK: Is aid a, I said that it's really against the law to kill the people, and you don't need gun controls. But I do know this, this attitude by you, your people, has been a disaster for the Democratic Party, and it's the reason the Republican, the House is Republican.


DORGAN: You all looked so much younger. That's my (UNINTELLIGIBLE).

HUNT: But not necessarily wiser.

DORGAN: Not Kate, not Kate.

SHIELDS: Kate, what the hell -- where was that hair from?

O'BEIRNE: Did you like that (UNINTELLIGIBLE)...

SHIELDS: My God, I thought it was Rapunzel.

O'BEIRNE: ... all that blonde hair must have been distracting for you back then.

SHIELDS: It was.


SHIELDS: Your comment, anything?

O'BEIRNE: Liberal pundits still love gun control, but Democrats who actually have to run for office have learned the intensity on this issue is with the gun rights people, and so they no longer (UNINTELLIGIBLE).

HUNT: And the cop-killer bullets. No?

DORGAN: Not in the suburbs.

HUNT: Not in the suburbs.

SHIELDS: Thanks for being with us, Senator Byron Dorgan.

Coming up in the second half of CAPITAL GANG, our "Newsmaker of the Week" is Linda Chavez, author of "An Unlikely Conservative." "Beyond the Beltway" looks at a hot Senate race in South Dakota with reporter David Kranz. And our "Outrage of the Week." That's all after the latest news following these important messages.


ANNOUNCER: Live from Washington, THE CAPITAL GANG.

SHIELDS: Welcome back to the second half of CAPITAL GANG.

I'm Mark Shields with Robert Novak, Kate O'Beirne, and Al Hunt.

Our "Newsmaker of the Week" is columnist, commentator, and writer Linda Chavez.

Linda Chavez, age 55, residence Purcellville, Virginia, religion Roman Catholic. Bachelor's degree University of Colorado 1970.

Deputy assistant to President Reagan, Republican nominee for the U.S. Senate from Maryland, 1990. Her second book, recently published, a memoir, "An Unlikely Conservative."

Earlier this week, Kate O'Beirne sat down with Linda Chavez. (BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)

O'BEIRNE: I found it once said about you that you had an intellect that could boil water. Now, that means to me you should be a conservative, yet you say you're an unlikely one. Why is that?

LINDA CHAVEZ, AUTHOR, "AN UNLIKELY CONSERVATIVE": If you look at my background, I'm a Mexican-American, I'm a female, I grew up in a working class household, and I even worked for a labor union for a time.

O'BEIRNE: Your new book is subtitled, "How I Became the Most Hated Hispanic in America." How did you win that label?

CHAVEZ: I don't really believe that ordinary Hispanic men and women hate me. That label was given to me, actually, by "Hispanic" magazine, who questioned in a cover story one year why is it so many people hate this woman? And it has to do with my having really promoted the idea of learning English. It's the national language, it's something that helps bind us today.

But the bilingual advocates out there have decided I'm enemy number one.

O'BEIRNE: Now, you later worked at the DNC here in Washington. A and while there, you criticized Richard Nixon's outreach to Hispanic voters. Why?

CHAVEZ: You know, a lot of people talk about the Republican outreach to Hispanics as if this is a new thing. In fact, President Nixon was the first Republican to reach out. He was the man who instituted the Philadelphia Plan that really was a racial preference program.

And so I didn't like those programs then, when I was a Democrat, and I don't like them now when I'm a Republican.

O'BEIRNE: Now, after having worked for the DNC, the NEA, the AFT teachers' union, what did you learn about liberals and the left that led you to wind up being the top-ranking woman at the Reagan White House?

CHAVEZ: Well, it was a very gradual transformation. And some of my conservative ideals I think I've had since childhood. But I think what most irritated me about the left was that often their way of helping was kind of patronizing. They did not believe that people like me could in fact live up to the same standards...

O'BEIRNE: Although it's gotten you in plenty of trouble, you, you believe opposition to affirmative action is a winning political issue.

CHAVEZ: Absolutely. Now, by the way, you have to define affirmative action. I'm all for outreach. What I'm opposed to is racial preferences. I don't think anybody should be judged by a different set of standards simply by the basis of the color of their skin.

O'BEIRNE: Is it possible to talk about the need for secure borders, which there's been much discussion about post-9/11, without appearing to be anti-immigrant?

CHAVEZ: I think that it is, and in fact I think all of us recognize that we have very porous borders, and it isn't just the busboy and the gardener that's coming across those borders, it's also the drug dealer and potentially the terrorist.

But I think we need a whole overhaul of our immigration policy. It ought to be skills based, we ought to be letting in people who are going to be a benefit to this country. And we also ought to create a program where temporary workers can come in times of labor shortages...

O'BEIRNE: The fact that about 10 years ago you provided sanctuary for an illegal alien led to you withdrawing your name as President Bush's nominee for Department of Labor. Any regrets about that episode?

CHAVEZ: I do have a regret that I didn't really tell the transition people about this incident early enough in the process for them to be aware of it and be prepared for it. And I think that was a disservice to them.

But I don't have any regrets about taking this woman into my home. She was a battered woman, she was on the streets in Washington. I believe that that kind of helping hand is more important, frankly, than my being secretary of labor.

O'BEIRNE: But for that incident, do you believe you would have been confirmed as secretary of labor?

CHAVEZ: President Bush thought I was going to be the most difficult nominee to confirm, and he told me that when he offered me the position. I think they would have made it a very contentious nomination process.

And frankly, the fact that they would derail my nomination, I think, in some ways paved the way for an easier time for people like Attorney General Ashcroft.

O'BEIRNE: How do you rate the Bush administration on issues you've fought, like race preferences and bilingual education?

CHAVEZ: Well, I think this has been a terrific president who's been a wonderful wartime leader. But I have been disappointed that they've not been willing to take on issues like racial preferences, getting rid of the quota programs as they are in place in many government programs, at the Department of Labor and elsewhere.

They're still giving money to bilingual education programs that have proved that they fail...

(END VIDEO CLIP) SHIELDS: Kate O'Beirne, does President Bush disagree almost entirely with Linda Chavez on how best to appeal to Hispanic voters?

O'BEIRNE: Well, I think they'd agree about the family values agenda or traditional religious values agenda items that appeal to Hispanics. But unlike Linda Chavez, as governor, now president, George Bush has been unwilling to take on the national Hispanic groups, despite the fact that Hispanic parents recognize that these bilingual programs cripple their children because they don't teach them English.

SHIELDS: Bob Novak?

NOVAK: It's a tragedy that Linda Chavez did not get into the Cabinet. She would have been a tremendous factor. I think some of the people in the White House are just as happy she's not there. But really, organized labor said this woman shall not be at the Labor Department. There's no way they would let her in.

HUNT: Maybe they did, because I just got a mailing from Linda Chavez in which she talks about socialistic labor unions. John Sweeney, the big socialist. I thought only Bob Novak used terms like that. She may be smart, but she's kind of an anachronism.

SHIELDS: Next on CAPITAL GANG, "Beyond the Beltway" looks at the South Dakota Senate race with political writer David Kranz of "The Sioux Falls Argus Leader."


SHIELDS: Welcome back.

One of the most closely contested and expensive Senate races in the country has been conducted all year in South Dakota between Democratic Senator Tim Johnson and Republican Congressman John Thune. A major issue in the campaign has been a Thune ad attacking Senator Johnson on national security using a picture of Saddam Hussein.


REP. JOHN THUNE (R), SOUTH DAKOTA: Kim, the issue isn't the ad. The issue, the issue is, however, national security. And we have, we have...

SEN. TIM JOHNSON (D), SOUTH DAKOTA: But we're talking about the ads, John.

THUNE: ... and we have very different, very different positions on national security. You have voted 29 specific times against a national missile defense. I have voted every single time for a national missile defense.

JOHNSON: CNN came out and pointed out one of your ads is one of the most deceptive of any being taken anywhere in America, John. You've been doing this over and over and over again. THUNE: The liberal journalists from CNN and what they think about our ads is, is, is one thing. But the truth of the matter is, the ad that they were talking about wasn't anything I said, it was...


SHIELDS: The most recent poll by John Zogby for MSNBC shows Congressman Thune barely ahead of Senator Johnson by two percentage points.

Joining us now from Chicago is David Kranz, political writer for "The Sioux Falls Argus Leader."

Thank you for coming in, David.



David, does either candidate look like he's getting up any traction, any momentum?

KRANZ: Well, every day it seemed like it was going back and forth a little bit, but today I'd have to say that Congressman Thune has a little bit of an advantage, largely because of the uncertainty of what's going on with the voter registration investigations out here.

As our listeners probably know, there's a fraud investigation about some absentee ballots and some registrations that have been forged or falsified, and that's kind of changed the tone of this, made it even more uncertain than it was before, you might say.

SHIELDS: Have those allegations, I mean, been -- are the charges been traced to the Johnson campaign or the Democratic Party?

KRANZ: No, actually the one Johnson has what we call contract employers, much the way like you'd call a paper courier for a newspaper, where they go out and register votes and also give absentee ballot applications. And so they're not actually directing plays for the Johnson campaign.

We had some charges filed yesterday in Pennington County by someone who did some work for the -- again, as a contract employee, forgery charges, but they were actually associated with another Native American group getting votes. And so they weren't directly involved with the Johnson campaign due to those charges, you might say.

There's another woman who also worked as a contract employee for Johnson, and she's being accused of -- not charged yet, though, but accused of securing several faulty ballots and false -- faulty absentee ballot applications.

SHIELDS: Bob Novak. NOVAK: David, these charges do involve Indians, and I just wondered if this is something new in South Dakota. I've covered races there in the past, and I don't remember anything like that. Or is this something that's been developing, the charges of fraud and abuse of the Native Americans?

KRANZ: This is certainly getting the most attention of any situation, but it's been an ongoing situation for several years. It doesn't surface in every election, I don't want to imply that. But take you back to 1980, when McGovern was running against senator -- or Congressman Abner at the time, and there was a TV giveaway plan out there that did not require you to vote in order to win that television.

The attorney general was a Republican, and the attorney general shut that down. In that case, some controversy at the 11th hour of that campaign. But this is definitely getting the most attention, just like the Senate race is getting the most attention they've ever seen before.

SHIELDS: Kate O'Beirne.

O'BEIRNE: David, given that when both John Thune and Tim Johnson ran in 1996, both statewide, John Thune won with 73 percent of the vote to Tim Johnson's 51 percent, it would seem in a head-to-head matchup, it shouldn't be a dead heat. Is it because this race is less about Tim Johnson as a senator and more about Tom Daschle, the senior senator from South Dakota, as the majority leader?

KRANZ: There's a lot of talk, especially in the national media, that this is a surrogate race with President Bush versus Tom Daschle. The president asked John Thune to come into this race, and of course Daschle wholeheartedly is behind Tim Johnson, and so that gives you an impression of the most powerful elected Republican versus the most powerful elected Democrat pushing their candidates and their agenda.

Both candidates are quick to tell you, though, both Congressman Thune and Senator Johnson, that this is about them, this is about judging us in terms of our leadership abilities. They campaigned face to face in South Dakota. President Bush will be out here for the fourth and maybe fifth time since he's been president, which is an all-time record, definitely pushing hard for the congressman.

Tom Daschle hasn't been seen as much, but I think you're going to see a lot of him in the last week or so, you know, really pushing his support, because this race is important to him in terms of keeping control of the U.S. Senate, not ultimately the deciding factor, but it could be.


HUNT: David, we showed that controversial ad that John Thune ran earlier linking Tim Johnson to Saddam Hussein. Your story this week that Bob Kerrey, the Congressional Medal of Honor winner, came out to South Dakota and blasted that ad as a distortion and a lie, as Thune paid any price for that kind of tactic, or is there just so many ads out there that people don't pay any attention?

KRANZ: That got a lot of attention. The one thing that everybody needs to know is, that was played only in western South Dakota. Most people in the eastern part of the state did not see that. But they certainly heard a lot about it. Thune, of course, says that, I'm not making a connection between Saddam Hussein and Tim Johnson, and Johnson, of course, says, Yes, you are, it's guilt by association that you're trying to imply here.

But Thune has tried to emphasize that this is about voting records with missile defense systems, and of course Johnson's countered with some evidence of his own in support for missile defense systems too, while not entirely supporting some that he said he just didn't feel comfortable with.

And it's been kind of a wash. We've moved on to other things now. But the ad certainly created some ripples at the time.

SHIELDS: David, "The New York Times" reported today that the average South Dakotan will be subjected over the calendar year 2002 to 21,000 commercials in this, in this race, and it's a small state, South Dakota, in terms of population.

So it would seem that there'd almost be a premium upon retail politics, that is, the candidate who can best get out and go one to one with voters. Between the two of them, who's better at that, Johnson or Thune?

KRANZ: Johnson's better as a one-on-one (UNINTELLIGIBLE) -- Thune's better as a one-on-one campaign, or based on his personality and his style. Johnson can be more engaging in terms of ability to just sit down and talk issues with you. But, you know, sometimes personality takes over, and he's good one-on-one people. And he's makes you feel comfortable with him.

And Johnson, you know, while he's very capable and good senator, sometimes feels uncomfortable out in the -- on the campaign stump, you might say. But people don't generally see those in negative, and it's not really going to play in terms of why I'm voting for Thune, why I'm voting for Johnson.

SHIELDS: We have less than 30 seconds. Bob Novak.

NOVAK: David, I was going to ask you whether national security was really an issue. You said you had moved on from that now to other things. And apart from the scandal, what are the other things you've moved on to?

KRANZ: Really the economy is probably the one that's playing the most in most polling that we see. Drought issues are important, so are prescription drugs. Recent CBS poll this week that showed Congressman Thune ahead slightly also pushes abortion into the top level right now. And we haven't seen that before, so that's one of the new players in this game.

NOVAK: Which way does abortion cut? KRANZ: Pardon me?

NOVAK: In which way does abortion -- who does abortion help, do you think?

KRANZ: Thune has -- he's basically advocates a pro-life position. The pro-life organizations have endorsed him. And Johnson has taken some pro-life votes, and also some pro-choice votes.

SHIELDS: OK. Hey, David Kranz, thank you very much for being with us.

KRANZ: Thank you.

SHIELDS: THE GANG will be back with the "Outrages of the Week."


SHIELDS: Now for the "Outrage of the Week."

In 1998, the Republican nominee for governor of Massachusetts, Mitt Romney, made a $1 million contribution to his alma mater, Brigham Young University. Now Massachusetts Democrats are accusing Romney, a Mormon who supports equal rights for gays, of endorsing the Mormon university's policy of insisting that students pledge they will not perform homosexual acts.

Now, tell me, when Massachusetts Democratic Senators John Kerrey and Ted Kennedy make contributions to the Catholic Church, does that mean they endorse the church's opposition to homosexual acts? If not, let's call the attack on Mitt Romney what it is, cheap politics and religious bigotry.

Bob Novak.

NOVAK: Nobel laureate Toni Morrison was just kidding, I hope, when she called Bill Clinton our first black president. But the folks who run the Arkansas Black Hall of Fame apparently took her seriously. They have voted the former president in as the hall's first white honorary member. I was trying to fill out Bill's qualifications. Is it because he has an office in Harlem?

But it appears that he will be inducted with singer Al Gray -- Green, famed for his martial, his marital, not martial, infidelity. Neither of them belongs in the Hall of Fame.

SHIELDS: Kate O'Beirne.

O'BEIRNE: This week's critics of the domestic war on terrorism include House majority leader Dick Armey and actor Sean Penn, who both complain that some unspecified civil liberties are being sacrificed. Whose, exactly? Visitors from terrorist countries who now must be fingerprinted, or the Buffalo homegrown terrorists who trained with al Qaeda and now have lawyers courtesy of local taxpayers?

Those who rant about the loss of civil liberties should explain what the heck they mean.


HUNT: Mark, last week a good man, Kenneth Bridges, was gunned down by a deranged sniper who has terrified the Washington area. The media descended upon the story. Most acted responsibly. A notable exception was self-styled journalist Fox New's Geraldo Rivera, who, after doing a standup report calling the sniper, quote, "a creep," end quote, went to the nearby Hooters and obligingly autographed the hot pants of several waitresses.

A Fox spokesman said he was just, quote, "honoring his adoring fans," end quote.

There was more than one creep in Fredericksburg that awful day.

SHIELDS: This is Mark Shields saying good night for THE CAPITAL GANG.

Coming up next, a CNN special, "SNIPER ON THE LOOSE: A SEARCH FOR THE KILLER."


Korea Admits to Secret Nuclear Weapons Program; Congress Ends Working Session>

© 2004 Cable News Network LP, LLLP.
A Time Warner Company. All Rights Reserved.
Terms under which this service is provided to you.
Read our privacy guidelines. Contact us.
external link
All external sites will open in a new browser. does not endorse external sites.